Virgin Atlantic chief calls for Heathrow expansion

Expanding Heathrow is the only “affordable” option to improve UK’s links to key markets abroad.

The claim came from Virgin Atlantic chief executive Steve Ridgway as he rejected proposals for a new hub to be built in the Thames estuary.

Virgin will only support a hub airport in a location that “passengers want to fly from,” he said.

“Right now, and for the foreseeable future, in affordability terms, that is Heathrow,” Ridgway told the Sunday Telegraph.

Regional airports and point-to-point airports such as Gatwick have an important role to play in improving aviation capacity.

But Ridgway added: “If you’re going to connect the UK to the world you need to be doing that through a hub where you can build traffic and have viable routes.”

The London mayor’s proposed ‘Boris Island’ airport in the Thames, would, in itself, probably be quite “cheap” to build, Ridgway admitted. But he said the transport links and other infrastructure would be the real stumbling block.

“It’s everything else that goes with it, moving the whole locus of the economy,” he said.

In one of his last interviews before he departs Virgin Atlantic, Ridgway said he found it “frankly quite depressing” government aviation policy had not progressed since he joined the airline in 1989.

His comments come after Heathrow revealed that it took Aeromexico four years to secure take-off and landing slots, despite the government targeting greater trade with the Central American country. The carrier finally plans to start three flights a week to Mexico City in December.

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